Federal agents conduct synthetic marijuana raids - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Federal agents conduct synthetic marijuana raids

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Designer drugs are becoming even more of a menace to society.

According to the UN's 2013 "World Drug Report," the use of traditional drugs like heroin and cocaine are on the decline in some parts of the world while prescription and designer drugs are on the rise.

Here in the U.S., authorities are cracking down on them.

Nine Austin area residences and 9 businesses were busted by the feds and six people in the Austin area are charged with distribution of the drugs.

Kush, K-2, Spice, it's been called a lot of things, but the federal government started cracking down on synthetic cannabinoids back in 2011.

Thanks to a new project called "Operation Synergy," on Wednesday, there were federal prosecutions made all over the nation.

The 6 people in the Austin area were indicted and charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids including Zikar R. Ali who operates three Kash Tobacco and Novelties stores in Austin.

U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman emphasized synthetic marijuana is very different from the stuff that grows in the ground.

Synthetic is made with un-regulated chemicals that can have seriously harmful side-effects. Even more disturbing, the packaging is often marketed to young people.

"To the business owners and operators of convenience stores and smoke shops that sell these substances, we're here to tell you that this is just the beginning of our effort to enforce the law with respect to potentially dangerous substances. To the people in the community that think these are a safe and legal option, we hope that this will make you understand that not only are these substances illegal, but that you're playing a game of 'Russian Roulette' when you put these unregulated and unknown chemicals into your body," Pitman said.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says parents have called the department before, concerned about what their kids were up to with the designer drugs.

"These are dangerous drugs that as the U.S. Attorney described, it's not something naturally grown. These are chemicals that are absolute poisons and I don't think that our kids know that's what they're ingesting, they're ingesting poisons into their body," Acevedo said.

Scott Lynch knows firsthand how bad synthetic marijuana really is.

He's the lead admissions specialist at Austin Recovery. But at one time, he was an addict too.

He remembers trying Synthetic cannabinoids and experiencing mania and paranoia...even though he was among friends.

"I actually thought they were trying to set me up to rob me. I became really violent and aggressive and I'm not typically that type of person. I ended up tearing a door off a hinge. It was just not a good experience at all. It was nothing compared to what it's promoted to be. It's promoted to be a type of marijuana that can be smoked undetected. When in reality it's more like shooting methamphetamine into your arms," Lynch said.

Austin is not the only place hit up the feds here in Central Texas.

There were 12 arrested in San Antonio.

If convicted those arrested are facing up to 20 years in federal prison.

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